Saw It On The Radio

Changing The Climate Of Protest With Aerial Art

For environmental activist Bill McKibben, change needs to happen on a grassroots level. He co-founded 350.org, a global movement to make politicians recognize an issue that, in his words, is one of the most important facing the planet — and yet rarely a top news story. To bring attention to a large-scale issue, the organization encouraged large-scale creative demonstrations, visible from space, many of which can be found on their Flickr site.

  • Three thousand students and teachers at the Ryan International School in New Delhi — along with volunteers from the Indian Youth Climate Network — joined aerial artist Daniel Dancer to form an enormous elephant with rising seas, asking world leaders to notice the "elephant in the room," i.e. climate change.
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    Three thousand students and teachers at the Ryan International School in New Delhi — along with volunteers from the Indian Youth Climate Network — joined aerial artist Daniel Dancer to form an enormous elephant with rising seas, asking world leaders to notice the "elephant in the room," i.e. climate change.
    Daniel Dancer/Courtesy of 350.org EARTH
  • Artist Bjargey XX created a "Red Polar Bear" with organic food dye on the Langjokull Glacier in Iceland.
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    Artist Bjargey XX created a "Red Polar Bear" with organic food dye on the Langjokull Glacier in Iceland.
    Christopher Lund/Courtesy of 350.org EARTH
  • The Santa Fe EARTH event shows how the endangered Santa Fe River could look if there were water running through it. To simulate the appearance of a river, more than 1,000 people held up blue painted pieces of cardboard or tarps."Flash Flood" by Santa Fe Art Institute
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    The Santa Fe EARTH event shows how the endangered Santa Fe River could look if there were water running through it. To simulate the appearance of a river, more than 1,000 people held up blue painted pieces of cardboard or tarps."Flash Flood" by Santa Fe Art Institute
    Don Usner/Courtesy of 350.org EARTH
  • Citizens from the Delta del Ebro region joined renowned urban-artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada to form a giant representation of the face of a young girl who wishes to see the Delta survive the threat of climate change.
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    Citizens from the Delta del Ebro region joined renowned urban-artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada to form a giant representation of the face of a young girl who wishes to see the Delta survive the threat of climate change.
    Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada/Courtesy of 350.org EARTH
  • In Cairo, Egypt, hundreds of students formed the image of a traditional scarab beetle, a traditional symbol of rebirth and regeneration. The demonstration is a reminder of the integral part of the sun in Egyptian history, and a call for re-examining our modern relationship to this source of clean energy.
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    In Cairo, Egypt, hundreds of students formed the image of a traditional scarab beetle, a traditional symbol of rebirth and regeneration. The demonstration is a reminder of the integral part of the sun in Egyptian history, and a call for re-examining our modern relationship to this source of clean energy.
    Ahmed Hayman/Courtesy of 350.org EARTH
  • In New York City artist Molly Dilworth, famous for painting a mural in Times Square, created a design on a school rooftop that represents the New York and New Jersey coastline after a 7 meter rise in sea levels.
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    In New York City artist Molly Dilworth, famous for painting a mural in Times Square, created a design on a school rooftop that represents the New York and New Jersey coastline after a 7 meter rise in sea levels.
    Steve Amiaga/Courtesy of 350.org EARTH
  • More than 3,500 schoolchildren and members of the community came together in Mexico City's Venustiano Carranza plaza to form a "human hurricane" — representing Mexico's vulnerability natural disasters such as the devastating hurricanes that hit the states of Nuevo Leon and Veracruz earlier this year.
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    More than 3,500 schoolchildren and members of the community came together in Mexico City's Venustiano Carranza plaza to form a "human hurricane" — representing Mexico's vulnerability natural disasters such as the devastating hurricanes that hit the states of Nuevo Leon and Veracruz earlier this year.
    Ricardo Villarreal T./Artist: Pablo Caballero/Courtesy of 350.org EARTH
  • Hundreds of people in white gathered in the Dominican Republic to demonstrate the threat of sea-level rise to an island nation.
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    Hundreds of people in white gathered in the Dominican Republic to demonstrate the threat of sea-level rise to an island nation.
    Marvin del Cid/Courtesy of 350.org EARTH
  • A satellite image shows an aerial view of the demonstration in the Dominican Republic.
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    A satellite image shows an aerial view of the demonstration in the Dominican Republic.
    DigitalGlobe/Courtesy of 350.org EARTH
  • An aerial view of Vancouver, Canada shows a giant "footprint."
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    An aerial view of Vancouver, Canada shows a giant "footprint."
    Kris Krug/Courtesy of 350.org EARTH
  • "350 Earth" in Australia.
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    "350 Earth" in Australia.
    Courtesy of 350.org EARTH
  • In Cape Town, South Africa, The Canary Project and local citizens created an enormous sun out of 70 high-powered parabolic solar cookers and table cloths. Each cooker lasts for 10 years and requires no fossil fuels, saving money for families while also protecting their health and the environment.
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    In Cape Town, South Africa, The Canary Project and local citizens created an enormous sun out of 70 high-powered parabolic solar cookers and table cloths. Each cooker lasts for 10 years and requires no fossil fuels, saving money for families while also protecting their health and the environment.
    Jade Wyatt-Holing/Courtesy of 350.org EARTH
  • Nearly 2,000 people gathered in Brighton-Hove, UK and formed an image of King Canute, who futilely attempted to control the oceans according to legend. The image was designed by Radiohead's Thom Yorke.
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    Nearly 2,000 people gathered in Brighton-Hove, UK and formed an image of King Canute, who futilely attempted to control the oceans according to legend. The image was designed by Radiohead's Thom Yorke.
    Malcolm Land/Sealand Aerial Photography Ltd./Courtesy of 350.org EARTH
  • "Red Polar Bear," Iceland
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    "Red Polar Bear," Iceland
    Christopher Lund/Courtesy of 350.org EARTH

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The number 350 represents the upper limit of a safe amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We have presently surpassed that number and, according to the organization's site: "If we can't get below that, scientists say, the damage we're already seeing from global warming will continue and accelerate."

This year is almost certain to rank among the three hottest years in recorded history. At least that's the word from the World Meteorological Organization, which just released its latest data at the United Nations climate summit in Cancun. No major breakthroughs are expected at the conference, although there are signs that the U.S. and China could agree on provisions for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions.

But for McKibben, breakthrough comes in the form of a 3,000-person elephant.

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